(2) North Carolina 3, Fresno State 5
June 17, 2008
Fresno State within one win of CWS finals
Updated: June 17, 2008, 11:57 PM ET
OMAHA, Neb. -- Those surprising Fresno State Bulldogs don't know when or where their postseason run will end, but they sure are enjoying the ride.
By knocking off No. 2 national seed North Carolina 5-3 at the College World Series on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs assured themselves of playing at least until the weekend. And if they win again Friday against Carolina or LSU, they'll be playing for the national championship next week.
Upsets of Rice and now the Tar Heels have put the Bulldogs (44-29) in control of Bracket 2.
"You kind of don't have any expectations going into something like this. None of us have ever been here before," closer Brandon Burke said. "We're kind of taking it from pitch-to-pitch and game-to-game and see where we go from there."
North Carolina (52-13), the national runner-up the past two years, will meet LSU (49-18-1) in an elimination game Thursday, with the winner facing Fresno State on Friday. If the Bulldogs lose, they'll play the same opponent Saturday in an elimination game.
It's almost overwhelming for a Fresno club that started the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 regional seed. Before this year, no one seeded so low had made it to the CWS.
"A lot of these teams -- Rice, obviously, North Carolina -- they've been here the last few years and they kind of know what to expect," Burke said. "And they may take us a little lightly."
Fresno State has shown no fear against two of the decade's most successful teams in college baseball. The Bulldogs put a 17-5 beating on Rice in their opener, and they could have scored more Tuesday if they hadn't left 12 runners on base.
"These guys decided long ago that they're not going to play who's in the other dugout or what name is across their uniform," Fresno coach Mike Batesole said. "They've just been playing baseball. It's fun for me as a coach to just get out of the way and watch them do it. When you're just playing baseball and not concerned about the outside things, it can be really fun."
Alan Ahmady hit the go-ahead single in the fifth inning and five Fresno State pitchers combined to hold Carolina scoreless for all but one inning.
"We come out and play hard every game, and it's really special," said Burke, who earned his 13th save. "Every pitch that every pitcher on our staff throws is the most important pitch they've ever thrown as we get deeper and deeper into this."
The Bulldogs knocked out Tar Heels starter Adam Warren (9-2) in the fifth after opening the inning with three straight singles. Brian Moran came on and gave up Ahmady's two-run single that gave Fresno State a 4-3 lead.
Ryan Overland homered leading off the second inning, marking the first time North Carolina had trailed in a game since the fifth inning of its regional opener against UNC Wilmington.
The Tar Heels went up 3-1 in the third on three run-scoring hits: a triple by Tim Fedroff, double by Kyle Seager and single by Chad Flack.
Steve Susdorf hit the Bulldogs' second homer of the game -- and sixth of the CWS -- to pull Fresno to 3-2 in the fourth. Then, Ahmady delivered his bases-loaded hit against Moran in the fifth.
Carolina had 11 hits, but left runners in scoring position in three of the last five innings.
"We don't play well when we're behind. I don't know why," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "Tonight, we swung at a lot of balls. Credit Fresno State pitchers. Their pitch is off the plate a little bit. We press a little bit. The strike zone was small for both teams, and I don't think we took advantage of it."
Rob Wooten, Carolina's closer, allowed one run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings, including Erik Wetzel's RBI single in the eighth for Fresno's final run.
Fresno starter Justin Miller worked four innings, allowing all three runs on seven hits. Jason Breckley (3-2), the third pitcher, worked just a third of an inning to get the win. Burke allowed one hit in his 1 1/3 innings.
Freshman Danny Muno had three singles, walked and was hit by a pitch to reach base five times. Wetzel went 3-for-5.
"It's not just one specific person. It's a new one every day," Susdorf said. "The other day, it was Muno and [Jordan] Ribera. Today, Wetzel had a key hit, and so did Ahmady. And Muno is always on base."
North Carolina now must win three games to return to the best-of-three championship series for the third straight year.
"Once you get in the loser's bracket, it's tough," Carolina third baseman Chad Flack said. "You just take it one game at a time, one inning at a time."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press